Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

In the Israel — Palestine conflict both sides are guilty

Litigating who is worse prevents progress and feeds the hatred.

Mitchell Diamond
4 min readMay 11, 2024

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Many emotional diatribes appear in the media about the current and historical Israel-Palestine conflicts. Most of the hyperbole amounts to: they’re the bad guys, and we’re the victims. If you’re in that camp, then it’s likely been pointed out to you that your side committed barbarous, criminal acts as well. Your tried and true response strategy is to automatically and unconsciously fall back on vilification and scapegoating. The ‘others’ are all cruel and inhumane, as if that assuages your side’s barbarism and culpability.

Of course it’s far more complicated and nuanced than that. I want to reframe the strife without the extremist tribal perspectives and finger-pointing.

Palestinians and Jews have existed in the Middle East for thousands of years and all have the right to continue to exist there.

Israel is a state made up of mostly Jewish immigrants and their descendants. It exists and has a right to continue to exist.

In the course of Israel’s establishment, many Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homes or became refugees out of fear for their lives in order to make room for Jewish immigrants. Little to no compensation or accommodation was made for the displaced Palestinians.

Antisemitism is the prejudice and discrimination towards Jews globally. It exists and has existed for thousands of years. It knows no geographic boundaries.

Jews have suffered many expulsions and exiles throughout their history, and of course, were the primary victims of Nazi genocide during World War II.

During the 1948 conflicts (the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and the 1948 Palestine War) massacres and other atrocities were committed by both sides and have continued to various degrees since then.

Photo by Ahmed Abu Hameeda on Unsplash

Many Palestinians and Muslim-majority countries continue to call for the elimination of Israel.

Many people, including many Jews, recognize the inherent inequality the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank face under Israel’s control. They lack the rights and infrastructure of independent nations such as private property rights (West Bank), their own passport control without Israel’s oversight, or the freedom to import and export international goods.

To oppose the policies of Israel is not antisemitic. Many Israeli Jews as well as other Jews throughout the world oppose Israel’s Palestinian policies. Equating opposition to the policies of the state of Israel with antisemitism conflates two disparate entities — a country’s governmental practices and tactics and a religion whose adherents live throughout the world. Unfortunately, many Jews see these two entities as intimately intertwined, and, by doing so, give the impression that all Jews support Israel’s policies towards Palestine. This contributes to persistent, historical antisemitism.

Jews who oppose Israel’s repressive treatment of Palestinians are not antisemitic and do not support the elimination of Israel. They do, however, recognize that the oppression of Palestinians in many ways mirrors what Jews have experienced for millennia. For this reason, they believe a different approach by the government of Israel is warranted that acknowledges the rights and needs of the Palestinians.

Wailing Wall. Photo by shraga kopstein on Unsplash

Even if Israel completely defeats Hamas, every surviving Palestinian will remember the trauma of the war. Many, if not most, of the traumatized children will be radicalized. Many of those children will grow up vowing to exact revenge on Israel, whether in a new iteration of Hamas or a different group.

Israelis will always remember the trauma of the Hamas assault, kidnapping, and other attacks against Israel. Many, if not most, will continue to call for retribution and punishment.

Negotiations to produce a two-state solution have been tried several times. The negotiations are extremely complex with each party claiming they make most of the concessions while the other party makes little to none. When one side rejects proposals as inadequate or onerous, there’s finger-pointing and blame.

Israel holds the military, economic, and political power. It is ultimately up to Israel to decide if, in the long run, they want a long-term solution to solve the enmity with Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, or if they want to continue both low-grade and full-on conflicts.

In the unlikely event that Israel works to give Gaza and the West Bank true independence, it won’t stop some Palestinians and others continuing to call for the elimination of Israel and using violence to achieve it. However, keeping the status quo will have exactly the same result.

What might actually work is to give the Palestinians the freedom to determine their own futures economically and politically. When people are able to prosper from their hard work, they build something of worth that they want to preserve. They are less likely to risk destroying it by inciting more conflict. At least it’s worth a shot; better than the present, never-ending turmoil.

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Mitchell Diamond

Author of Darwin’s Apple: The Evolutionary Biology of Religion, a new take on the function and purpose of religion. http://www.darwinsapple.com